Being a parent is hard, overwhelming, amazing, challenging, creative, responsible, beautiful and seemingly-impossible, all at once. Especially because it is so much at the same time, we can sometimes completely unintentionally lose track of things and make a mistake.
And though most people allow themselves a misstep or two in other realms of their lives, a parenting fiasco can be especially painful and difficult to recover from. But remember, you have a special bond with your child, and it will enable you to endure everything, together.
For a little extra help for the always-busy parent, we compiled 10 common parenting mistakes and their fixes according to developmental psychologists. The experienced parents from the BabaMail staff tested these tips and found them really helpful and effective.
“Stop teasing your sister!”, “Don’t turn on the TV!”, “You can’t do that!” are all things parents say to their kids all the time, and it can easily turn into a bad habit. In the end, your child will become desensitized to negative remarks and they will stop reacting even to the firmest “NO” you can squeeze out.
The Fix: Instead of submitting to this bad habit, train yourself to reserve a negative remark to truly dangerous situations, says Dr.Linda Sonna, a developmental psychologist. Tell your child what you want them to do and replace your negative remarks with guidance.
So, instead of saying “No cartoons at dinner!” try saying “We talk about our day at dinner time” and urge your child to maintain a dialogue with you and other family members. If you see that they are trying to do so, praise them by saying “I really like your story” or similar.
Mistake 2: We Expect Too Much From Our Kids.
Has your child colored on the wall, the curtains and the neighbor’s dog with the markers you don’t let them use unsupervised to begin with? And when you ask them who did it, they say they don’t know?! Don’t turn on the screaming mode just yet, and do the following instead…
The Fix: First, pick your battles and focus on 1 thing at a time because kids cannot absorb several rules all at once. I would focus on the most important rule they violated. In the example we gave above, the most important rule that was violated is "no lying".
Now repeat, and repeat several times and explain why lying is bad, and dangerous, and why it disappoints you as a parent. Don’t expect them to get it right away either, as bad habits are difficult to get rid of not only for adults but also for kids.
Mistake 3: Raising the Child We Dreamed About, and Not the Child We Have.
Secretly we all hope that our child will be a better-looking, smarter and more talented version of us. We want to protect them from the mistakes our parents made when raising us.
But the truth is that every child is their own little personality. They all have their own interests, talents, and quirks, so forcing our dreams on them can be disastrous.
The Fix: Let your child discover their own talents and interests, even if and especially if they don’t align with yours. Only when we see our children for who they really are can we impact their life powerfully.
Parents are the role-models for kids, which means that your kids will mimic all aspects of your life starting from your eating habits and ending with the relationship you have with your spouse and how you spend your free time.
Be mindful and vigilant of that, and remember, modeling respectful and appropriate behavior works significantly better than telling your child what to do.
The Fix: If you made a mistake in front of your child, take responsibility and don't deny your mistake. That way you'll be the good role model. Of course, it's hard if not impossible to behave perfectly around the clock, so apologize when things go awry.
This will teach your child that it’s OK to get emotional and make mistakes from time to time, and that it is also important to be accountable for our actions nonetheless.
Sometimes, children do stupid things, like a 6-year-old watching TV laying upside-down on the couch with their legs wiggling up in the air and their head where the legs are supposed to be...
As a parent, you might immediately picture them getting a terrible injury and feel the need to intervene. If any of that sounds familiar, you may be just a little bit too protective of your child.
The Fix: Instead of screaming out for the child to sit “normally,” follow the strategy of patient observation. Since you’re a protective parent, we are convinced that there are no dangerous objects around the child already, and most likely, if you don't respond, they will just settle into a different position in a few minutes.
Let your child explore this world and the capabilities of their body, as this is how they gain independence and learn problem-solving.
Mistake 6: We Assume What Works for One Kid Will Work for the Other.
One of the main mistakes even experienced parents do is disregarding individual variation in kids. This may be because of the misconception that all kids are the same, or because you as a parent may think that you know best what your child is like.
You may also think that your younger child of the two will be the same as the older one. All of these approaches are wrong, and understanding that is the first step to progress.
The Fix: Have an individual approach to each child. While one child might respond to logical verbal explanations, the other will need a consequence to discipline them, like taking away their toy. Remember that you shouldn’t feel bad for being firm with one child and touchy-feely with the other.
You are not being an inconsistent parent or having a “favorite” child, you are just responding to different needs and learning styles.
Mistake 7: We're All Talk and No Action.
"Stop playing and do your homework... I'm serious this time... Really!" This kind of talk will get you nowhere. Not only will it teach your child that what you say is questionable, but it will also never give you the result you want.
The Fix: Forget about negotiation and second chances, set limits and follow through with them instead. A child is constantly exploring your boundaries, and if you send them a mixed message, it will be frustrating to both the parent and the child, assures Dr. Robert MacKenzie.
In the situation we staged above, for example, start from respectfully instructing your child to do their homework, and if they listen, praise and thank them. If, however, they refuse to do so, turn off their game or take the toy immediately and say that they will not be able to play until they finish their work.
Mistake 8: Praising for everything.
It’s very good when you praise your child for their accomplishments and reinforce their good behavior, but are you sure that you’re reinforcing the behavior itself and not the need for constant approval?
The Fix: Give constructive praise. Instead of saying, “What a beautiful drawing!”, for example, say what you liked about it, “I liked the way you colored neatly within the lines, you’re really getting better at it.” The same technique can be applied to any situation.
Mistake 9: Believing Our Children Are Perfect.
Professionals who work with children often point out that parents don't want to hear anything negative about their kids. The result is a spoiled child who isn’t resilient to criticism and thus very susceptible to stress and depression in adulthood.
The Fix: The truth sometimes hurts, but listening with an open heart and mind will benefit your child. If a teacher or any other qualified professional who works with children tells you there is reason for concern, follow their advice and try to fix the problem together.
Mistake 10: Thinking That Worrying About Your Kids Will Prevent Them From Harm.
It is completely natural and understandable that you are concerned about your child’s safety and wellbeing in certain situations, but constantly worrying about your child will get you nowhere. Psychologist Barbara Greenberg believes that worrying about your child can lead to anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal and other emotional problems in your child.
The Fix: You are concerned about your child facing a certain situation? Good, tell them about the dangers they may face and it will teach your kids' important life skills.
In certain minor cases, it is also a good idea to trust your child and let them make mistakes, it’s a great character and resilience builder.